Can I Change Cat Litter While Pregnant?
Yes, you can clean the cat’s litter box and change the litter when you’re pregnant. However, do this chore carefully because you’ll risk being infected by toxoplasmosis, which you could also pass to your unborn child. The toxoplasma parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, is transmitted through cat feces in the kitty litter or in the soil outside your house where infected cats have pooped.
This post discusses how you can safely change your cat’s litter when you’re expectant. But first, let’s delve a little more into toxoplasmosis.
Effects of Toxoplasmosis
Toxoplasmosis is a common disease but is not deadly. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 40 million Americans carry the Toxoplasma parasite, but most don’t have symptoms or become ill because their immune system suppresses the parasite.
However, toxoplasmosis can be more harmful if you get infected for the first time during your pregnancy or shortly before you conceive or have a weak immune system.
You do not have to worry much if the disease previously infected you before you conceived, because your immune system will keep the condition in check. You could also pass the immunity to your unborn baby.
And, if infected for the first time when pregnant, you can transmit the parasite to your unborn baby leading to defects such as brain damage. Toxoplasmosis can also lead to stillbirth in severe cases, especially if you got infected during your first trimester.
How does Toxoplasma gondii affect unborn kids?
Infected unborn children may experience problems at birth, such as seizures, jaundice, and eye infections. If the signs don’t show early, it may lead to other complications later in life, like mental disabilities and hearing loss.
So being on the safe side, consult your doctor before getting pregnant if you handle cat litter. And if you think you could have been exposed, get medical attention soonest possible.
You should also make a special request for toxo tests during your monthly prenatal visits because they are not routine tests.
Toxoplasmosis is treatable; hence you have no cause for alarm. Your doctor will take a blood sample to determine whether you are infected. And, while pregnant, your doctor will closely monitor you until you deliver and run some tests on your newly born baby.
Some people experience no symptoms of toxoplasmosis after an infection. If they do, the symptoms are flu like.
Here are signs of toxoplasmosis infection.
Signs of Toxoplasmosis Infection
A person infected by Toxoplasma gondii will have the following symptoms:
- Feeling confused
- A headache which may be mild or severe
- problems coordinating body parts
- Lung problems that manifest as pneumonia or tuberculosis
- Inflammation of the retina leading to a blurred vision
Now you know cat litter can expose you to the risk of toxoplasmosis infection. So, what precautions should you take to avoid toxoplasmosis when pregnant and you have cats?
How To Safely Change And Clean Cat Litter Box While Pregnant
If you get pregnant and you have to change your cat’s litter and clean your cat’s litter boxes, follow these tips to minimize the risk of getting infected with Toxoplasma.
Avoid touching cat litter with bare hands
As mentioned earlier, infected cats pass the Toxoplasma parasite when they poop. Therefore, take precautions to ensure you don’t touch the cat litter or litter box with your bare hands. Wear disposable gloves and dispose of them after each litter change.
Wash your hands after cleaning the cat’s litter box
Washing your hands is the safest way to keep you healthy and free from diseases.
After changing and cleaning the litter box, wash your hands thoroughly using soap or disinfectant and clean running water.
Change the cat litter every day
In ordinary circumstances, you can change cat litter twice every week. But if pregnant, change the cat litter daily to reduce your risk of getting toxoplasmosis. The parasite takes 1-5 days after the cat poops it before becoming infectious.
So, change the cat litter every day and wash the tray thoroughly with soap and disinfectant to deny the parasite from becoming infectious.
Feed healthy foods to your cat
As seen earlier, contaminated foods can cause toxoplasmosis. So, give your feline friends canned or commercial dry cat food. Avoid giving them raw food, especially meat. If you don’t have dry commercial food, you can steam the meat before feeding it to the cat.
Keep your cat indoors
Outdoor cats can get the toxoplasmosis parasite when they eat infected birds, rodents, and other small animals. The cats could also get the parasites directly when they munch contaminated soil.
So you are safer when your lovely kitty stays indoors.
And if you have outdoor sandboxes, ensure you keep them covered.
Give away your beloved cat for some time
Giving away your beloved pet is a tough call to make. As a parent to a sweet and adoring kitty, I would struggle to part with her.
But if you are unsure of your safety (and you can survive the separation from your sweet kitty!), give away your cat.
You can temporarily arrange with a friend to keep the cat until you deliver and feel it’s safe to welcome your feline friend back into your home.
Pregnant women can change cat litter. However, they should take the precautions when doing it. Therefore, if you have to change the litter, use gloves and wash your hands afterward. The best way is to get someone to do it for you. You may also give your cat way for some time till you deliver.
Here are some frequently asked questions about cat litter and Toxoplasma.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I breastfeed after contracting a Toxoplasma infection during my pregnancy?
Yes, you can breastfeed. If you are healthy, it’s least likely you can transmit Toxoplasma through breast milk. No cases of transmitting Toxoplasma infection through human milk have been reported.
However, it is theoretically possible to transfer the parasite to your infant through breast milk if you are breastfeeding. You have breast inflammation or cracked and bleeding nipples within weeks after having acute Toxoplasma infection because the parasite will still be circulating in your bloodstream.
It could be worse if you have a weak immune system because the parasite will circulate in your bloodstream for a more extended period.
Do all cats carry Toxoplasma parasites?
No, only infected cats carry the Toxoplasma oocysts. Oocysts are the form of the parasite that infects people and which cats spread through their poop.
A kitten or cat with severe Toxoplasma infection can defecate up to 500 million oocysts in two weeks. And only one oocyst is enough to give you an infection!
The cat will spread the oocysts for 1-3 weeks once it’s infected. The oocysts are quite resilient and can survive in water and soil for a year or longer.
Like humans, most cats do not show symptoms when infected, so you might not know. But you can request your vet to test your cat and risk for toxoplasmosis.
Is it bad to breathe in cat litter while pregnant?
Yes. It is bad to breathe in cat litter when pregnant or to be in a room where there is a lot of cat litter because you may inhale it.When cat feces dry, they may become fine dust-like particles suspended in the air which may have oocysts. So it is possible to inhale the oocysts when changing cat litter or even just walking through an area where cats have pooped.